The purpose of a strategic vision

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A strategic vision is a vision of where the company needs to head and what its future product/customer/market/technology focus should be. This provides long-term direction, infuses the organisation with a sense of purposeful action, and communicates to stakeholders what management's aspirations for the company are.

A strategic vision includes a vision statement, mission statement and statement of values.

Parents Inc. is best summed up simply by Bruce Pilbrow, Parents Inc. CEO:

"Our overall goal is simple. We have no agendas; we are not here to judge; we are not here to segregate society based on wealth or circumstances; we are not here to tell parents whether they are good or bad or even try and fit people into what we might think is the perfect family unit. We are here to help people with their parenting and to equip young people with the skills to make positive changes in their lives."

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The above statement is what the vision statement, mission statement and statement of values have been based on.

2.1 Vision Statement

Burt Nanus defines a vision as a realistic, credible, attractive future for an organisation. He went on to say that that the right vision for a company can accomplish a number of things for an organisation such as attracting commitment, energising people, creating meaning in workers lives, establishes a standard of excellence and bridges the present and the future.  

Based on this definition, a vision for Parents Inc. could be To Positively Impact Every Family.

This vision is bold yet needed in New Zealand, and in other countries. There is a major job for Parents Inc. to do, as they continue to work with families and young people. In the current environment the need appears to become even more evident as families are hit by the economic crisis.

The Vision is quite grand and aspirational, but I think that Parents Inc is well on the way to achieving this vision with reaching almost 1,000,000 high school students in the past 9 years, and now achieving close to 185,000 high school students every year.

2.2 Mission Statement

A mission statement is a clear and compelling goal that serves to unify an organisation's effort. An effective mission must stretch and challenge the organisation, yet be achievable" (Collins and Porras).  It should describe the present business and purpose such as who are we, what we do and why we are here.

Based on this definition, a mission for Parents Inc. could be:

To communicate to the whole of society, particularly to parents, equipping them with skills and resources

To collect and create the best ideas about family life and pass them on in a way that is appealing and relevant

To specialise in excellent presentations, characterised by skill, humour and flair

To create, publish and distribute quality resources

2.3 Statement of Values

A company's values are the beliefs, traits and behavioural norms that company personnel are expected to display in conducting the company's business and pursuing the strategic vision and strategy.

Based on this definition, the values which guide the above mission could be:

Judeo-Christian in their motivation and ethics

Apolitical

Inclusive and welcoming

Not-for-profit but commercially smart

In addition to these values, there are some fundamental aims that underpin the organisation and which Parents Inc. should aim towards at all times:

Conduct their affairs with integrity and respect for all they deal with

Ensure that their information is current, accurate and valid

Focus on positive solutions rather than problems

Seek the best people for the job, and resource, develop and care for them as best as they are able

Be economical, without compromising excellence

Partner with individuals and groups working for the betterment of families

3.0 Organisational Analysis

Organisational analysis aims to generate an understanding of the organisational structure and culture of the system the project is looking at. This can help in understanding the ease or difficulty with which new strategies can be adopted.

3.1 Internal Analysis

An internal organisational analysis evaluates all relevant factors in an organisation in order to determine its strengths and weaknesses.

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The Resource-Based View (RBV) theory is based on the assumption that a competitive advantage is the result of optimal resource allocation and the combination in imperfect markets. Resources are the strengths that enable business to implement their strategy. RBV theory states that certain assets with certain characteristics will lead to sustainable advantage and therefore high strategic returns in terms of market share or profits. i.e. differences in business resources and their degree of immobility determine business trajectories.

Grant (1991) sums up this line of thought with:

"The essence of strategy formulation, then, is to design a strategy that makes the most effective use of these core resources and capabilities. "

The first step in the process of using the resource-based view is to identify and classify the firm's resources. This includes an appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses relative to competitors and it also gives an opportunity to identify opportunities for better utilisation of resources.

Resources can be both tangible and intangible, and include assets, skills, and (organisational) capabilities, and need to conform to the VRIN criteria, which will be discussed later.

In Parents Inc. there are a number of key resources which can be identified. These include:

Brand

The brand is well known, in all parts of New Zealand, not just in the main cities.

People

For those that do not recognise the brand, the mention of one of the seminar presenters brings instant recognition of the programs. For example, Ian Grant, Pio Terei and John Cowan

Core Values and Vision

Parents Inc. has a strong positive Vision and the Core Values are solid, business savvy and inclusive.

Products

There are a number of core programs all with their own "personality" that are individually recognised without the Parents Inc. name.

Marketing Mix

There are a number of different methods of delivery of the Parent's Inc message, to ensure they reach as many people as possible, and they includes face to face seminars, "toolbox" groups, website, talkback radio and TV

Sponsorship

Ability to raise sponsorship funds without Government assistance, ensuring that sponsors have consistent values and goals, but increasing difficult to raise money in current financial environment.

Next, we need to identify the capabilities of Parents Inc. The capabilities should sum up what Parents Inc. do more effectively than its rivals and should also identify the resource inputs to each capability, and the complexity of each capability.

In Parents Inc. there are a number of key capabilities which can be identified. These include:

Innovative Programs to positively impact every family

Excellent mix of programs to suit different age groups

Excellent mix of delivery methods to provide coverage, working towards the vision of positively impacting every family

Communication Model

Excellent use of household names to draw people to the courses and programs eg Jason Gunn, Ian Grant, Pio Terei and John Cowan, whose presentations are characterised by their skill, humour and flair

Volunteer base

Ability to engage a large pool of volunteers (approx 600) to act as facilitators for the toolbox programmes

Sponsorship

Ability to raise sponsorship funds without Government assistance, ensuring that sponsors have consistent values and goals.

Once the resources and capabilities have been defined, they are then appraised for their rent generating potential, in terms of their potential for sustainable Competitive Advantage and the appropriateness of their returns.

This is usually done using the VRIN criteria - is it Valuable, Rare, In-imitable and Non-substitutable. The VRIO criteria has also been discussed as appropriate to be used - is it Valuable, Rare, In-imitable and can the Organisation exploit the resource

The VIRO analysis shows that the majority of the resources have a sustained competitive advantage, with above normal economic performance, which is a strength with a sustainable distinctive competence. The full VIRO analysis can be found in Appendix 2.

3.2 External Analysis

An external organisational analysis evaluates all external and environmental factors to an organisation in order to determine its opportunities and threats.

Porters Five Forces

Parents Inc. seems to be the only real player in the industry. It is certainly the only business, reaching that many New Zealanders on an annual basis. It is well respected and gains the following of many New Zealander because in its values - being apolitical and Inclusive and welcoming. That places Parents Inc. at the top of its industry, if an industry exists.

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There is a small threat of entry. However, this risk is minimised due to the capital requirements of entry, customer loyalty and experience that Parents Inc. have. A major competitor would also reduce the total funding source, which would put both organisations at risk.

Parents Inc. seems to be the only real player in the industry. The risk of substitutes is low, for the same reasons as the threat of entry is low as is supplier power.

Parents Inc. encourages Buyer Power, and organises sessions in small towns, encouraging as many people to attend as possible. This gives them the greatest penetration of people with fixed costs. In smaller towns, the sponsoring organisation (eg where the sessions are held such as a church or school) often pay for or subside tickets to ensure as many people can attend as possible.

4.0 Strategies

Crafting strategy is concerned principally with forming responses to changes under way in the external environment, devising competitive moves and market approaches aimed at producing sustainable competitive advantage, building competitively valuable competencies and capabilities, and uniting the strategic actions initiated in various parts of the company.

The next step is to select a strategy which best exploits Parents Inc. resources and capabilities relative to the external opportunities.

RBV can be used to help find the potential for gaining sustained competitive advantages. In the case of Parents Inc.. I think that all the competitive advantages have been identified and exploited. Parents Inc. just need to keep refreshing its business to ensure continued exploitation of the opportunities.

The last step in the process is to identify resource gaps which need to be filled. This can be done by investing in replenishing, augmenting and upgrading the resource base.

In order to sustain the competitive advantages that Parents Inc. current has, it is necessary that it keeps nurturing and developing its resource base. Resources can be seen as stocks that depreciate with time and that have to be replaced, augmented and upgraded. This line of thought is a parallel with Porter's diamond theory, because in both models, the only way to stay in the market is through upgrading the resource pool. This resource pool can be upgraded organically or through acquisitions.

It must be remembered that if constant innovation is the key to a sustainable competitive advantage, then it is crucial for management to be committed to the necessary investments to carry this process out. For Parents Inc, that thinking has to be in a commercial savvy way, within the values of the organisation, whilst continuing to find sponsors through community organisations, funding agencies and individual donors.

Parents Inc. is facing a period of change. They need to understand how to do things differently, as that as costs continue to rise, they can continue to fulfil the demand without passing on the extra costs to their growing audience. To successfully do this, they need to exploit their resource and capabilities in the area of sponsorship to increase the revenue of the business. There is currently a small pool of big name New Zealand businesses involved in sponsorship to Parents Inc. which can be leveraged to gain my sponsorship dollars (from new and existing sponsors).

Parents Inc. has recently reviewed and refreshed most of its educational material which is presented at each of their seminars and programs. This keeps the material up to date and relevant for today's families.

Determining the strategic position of an organisation gives you an idea about:

the present position of the organisation, relative to its competitors

where the organisation is strategically placed in its industry

how strongly the organisation is placed (competencies)

the organisation's strategic issues (opportunities and threats)

Parents Inc. seems to be the only real player in the industry. It is certainly the only business, reaching that many New Zealanders on an annual basis. It is well respected and gains the following of many New Zealander because in its values - being apolitical, inclusive and welcoming.

That places Parents Inc. at the top of its industry, if an industry exists.

Strategy is the long-term direction and scope of an organisation, which achieve competitive advantage in a changing environment through its configuration of resources and competencies with the aim of fulfilling stakeholder expectations.

It is my understanding that Parents Inc. uses an intended strategy. The strategy is an expression of desired strategic direction deliberately formulated or planned by managers. The implication of an intended strategy is that the implementation of this intended strategy is planned in terms of resource allocation as well as organisational structure.

5.0 Summary

A company's strategic vision plus its objectives plus its strategy equals a strategic plan for coping with industry and competitive conditions, outcompeting rivals, and addressing the challenges and issues that stand as obstacles to the company's success.

RBV has been used to help find the potential for gaining sustained competitive advantages for Parents Inc. I think that all the competitive advantages have been identified and exploited. Parents Inc. do need to keep refreshing its business to ensure continued exploitation of the opportunities.

In order to sustain the competitive advantages that Parents Inc. current has, it is necessary that it keeps nurturing and developing its resource base. Resources can be seen as stocks that depreciate with time and that have to be replaced, augmented and upgraded. This line of thought is a parallel with Porter's diamond theory, because in both models, the only way to stay in the market is through upgrading the resource pool. This resource pool can be upgraded organically or through acquisitions.

However, as noted by the CEO in the 2009 Annual Report, Parents Inc. is facing a period of change. They need to understand how to do things differently, so as costs continue to rise, they can continue to fulfil the demand, without passing on the extra costs to their growing audience. To successfully do this, they need to exploit their resource and capabilities in the area of sponsorship to increase the revenue of the business. There is currently a small pool of big name New Zealand businesses involved in sponsorship to Parents Inc. which can be leveraged to gain my sponsorship dollars (from new and existing sponsors).

Managing the implementation and execution of strategy is an operations-oriented, make-things-happen activity aimed at shaping the performance of core business activities in a strategy-supportive manner. Management's handling of the strategy implementation process can be considered successful if things go smoothly enough that the company meets or beats its strategic and financial performance targets and shows good progress in achieving management's strategic vision.